The senior A Nanaimo Timbermen had their best season in six years and while it wasn’t enough to make playoffs, it was enough to make the team feel like it’s moving in the right direction.
“This year was a big turning point for our franchise,” said Kaleb Toth, Timbermen coach. “The guys, they’re tasting the winning now and it’s just going to get better and better.”
The T-men missed the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs for a 10th straight season in 2017, but won three of their last four games to finish with a 7-10-1 record. That’s the most victories the team has had since 2011, when it went 7-9-2.
“Seven wins is the most wins that we’ve had in a long time and guys are starting to play with confidence, they’re starting to get hungry, they’re starting to want to win,” said the coach. “That’s what we want to breed in is a different culture that it’s not OK to lose and that you demand the best out of yourself and you demand the best out of your teammates.”
Toth said he knows from talking to opposing coaches and general managers that other organizations don’t look forward to playing Nanaimo anymore, recognizing the club’s improvement.
Brody Eastwood, Timbermen captain, said playing well at the end of this season was important for the team’s development.
“It shows we’re making strides, the culture’s starting to change in the dressing room, people want to be here, they want to win games,” he said. “We’re not just rolling over in games, we’re finishing them out. Going forward, it’s big for us, it’s very big and I’m excited for the future.”
The Timbermen were able to spread the scoring around this season, one of their stated goals at the start of the year. Chase Fraser and Ryan Lee ended up tying for the most points with 52, with the rookie Fraser leading the team in goals with 30.
Toth said several times during the season that the difference in games came down to a few correctable mistakes and lapses in focus, and while sometimes the experience of the opponents showed, experience is something his team is gaining.
“[Coaches] kind of preached the same things to us all year and it did start to sink in down the stretch, but it might have been a little bit too late,” said Jake Cullen, T-men forward.
Toth said the T-men have some ideas about the type of players they think they need to add, but those decisions will come later in the off-season.
“We’ll get together as a coaching staff and a management group and we’ll talk about what we need to do to get over the top, whether it’s drafting, whether it’s trying to recruit,” Toth said. “We’ll figure it out and we’ll talk to some of our captains and our veterans and see what they think and then we’ll go out and get them.”
The good news is that players feel like they have a core group that is motivated by this season’s improvements and looking forward to trying to achieve better things together.
“Absolutely,” said Tyson Roe, T-men defender. “I know this year we were having a lot more fun than we have been in previous years and I think that’s honestly helping us on the floor playing as a team.”
Cullen said as long as guys keep buying in, there’s no reason the Timbermen can’t take the next step to playoffs next year.
“I think we’ve got the talent, we’ve got all the right guys,” he said.
Eastwood said the potential of the group is exciting if it sticks together, and he thinks Timbermen players are in it for the long haul.
“Every year is getting better, we’re getting more experience and eventually it’s going to click,” he said.